Rover whines a lot. He whines when he has to pee; he whines when he wants to play; he whines when he is hurt. The list goes on. Rover can’t speak, so he communicates through his whines, and he has found that a lot of the time, this communication works. But sometimes Rover’s whines get downright annoying, and you wish you knew some strategies on how to redirect this behavior. You also wonder if Rover’s whines are similar to a baby’s cry? Are there certain types of whines that mean different things? This would be useful information to know in order to help out Rover.
The Root of the Behavior
The primary reason for dog whining is communication. Through whining, Rover can communicate a range of emotions: excitement, anxiety, fear, and more. The dog’s body language and pitch of the whine can also express different needs. For example, if Rover is whining with half-closed eyes as you are getting his leash for a walk, then he is communicating pleasure, but if you are refusing to get that leash, and Rover is whining with his eyes fully open, he is whining in disappointment. Another example refers to pitch. Similar to that of a baby’s, different “cries” hold different meanings. If Rover’s whine rises in a high pitch at the end of the sound, he is communicating anxiety or distress, but if it lowers in pitch or does not change in pitch at all, he is communicating in a positive way and is most likely excited or happy. Just like humans speak in different tones, dogs whine in different tones.
Similarly to many dog behaviors, whining goes back to their wolf ancestors. Back in the day, wolves would be shunned by the pack if they broke the rules. The shunned wolf would usually return to the pack with a bowed head and tail between the legs while whining. These gestures were a way of saying, please forgive me! Today, domesticated dogs will do the same thing with their owners. After being scolded or getting into trouble, it is common for a dog to whine for forgiveness. Dogs also whine because of separation anxiety. This is usually accompanied by the destruction of property and pacing. Rover might also whine because he feels that you're ignoring him, and he just wants a little extra attention. One more concerning whine is a shrieking type of yelp, which may indicate pain. If you suspect that Rover has been injured or is sick, make sure to take him to your veterinarian.
Encouraging the Behavior
If your dog is sick and injured and whining this is his way of telling you something is wrong. Instead of scolding your dog in this situation, make your dog comfortable and let him know he is loved. It is also important to get him checked out. If your dog seems to be whining out of anxiety, it is important to get to the root of the problem. Is he whining because he misses you when you leave? Is he whining because there has been a major change to his routine, etc.? Once you discover the cause, you can work on remedying the situation, and the whining might cease once you discover the root of the problem. But if your dog is constantly whining out of excitement or boredom, and this is starting to get on your nerves, then you might want to take action.
One common technique to decreasing dog whining is to provide Rover with positive reinforcement when he stops whining. Be patient, and if Rover whines right before you go outside to throw balls, wait until he calms down, ask him to sit, and once he obeys, offer him a treat. If your dog constantly whines and squeals as soon as you get home because he is so, so excited to see you, you can take steps to downplay the greeting. Turn your back to the dog until he stops whining and settles down. Once he does settle down, make sure to shower him with that welcoming love.